Anna Ayers is passionate about the power of clean beauty and preserving the ecological gifts of the Amazon Rainforest. She is the co-founder, along with her husband Fabian Lliguin, of Amazon Beauty and Rahua beauty products—a beautiful natural and organic haircare (and more recently bodycare) line that launched in 2008. Anna and Fabian were way ahead of the pack when they began formulating clean haircare back in the day. I met the humble duo in the very early days of their business, at their tiny salon in New York City. Their quietly intense passion for the Amazon Rainforest and its peoples touched me then—and their success today brings me great joy. I love it when good things happen to truly good people. Ultimately inspired by Mother Nature, Anna and Fabian have stuck to their (green) guns and kept their mission intact. I caught up with Anna to talk shop.
Let’s talk about now versus then.
It’s true that we haven’t changed much, we’ve evolved in what we set out to do—in creating awareness for the Rainforest and preserving those traditions for the future, that’s the core. The difference now is how people respond to what we’re doing, it’s so relevant to what people want now, it’s what they need. People are approaching beauty from a different place. It was more cosmetic before; it was about covering up, redefining one’s beauty. Now we’re looking for ways to accentuate the beauty within. With our products, we want to inspire our customers with confidence. It’ s a health choice, and health is beautiful. The consumer now is more in that wellness and health space— and that’s a new a way to look at beauty.
The wellness and health space you’re describing is really a spiritual space. How do you keep that space real?
With real, authentic products. We are authentic, and when something is authentic, you feel it, the customer feels it. You feel the quality of the product—it has that magic. Palo santo, is one of these ingredients that we’ve been sourcing and using from the beginning, for a specific reason, a function. We wanted to make a natural product and people thought that we were nuts when we were developing it back in 2007. It’s natural for preservation, palo santo provided that for us, and we were able to create the natural ingredient shampoo we wanted to create and hit the quality we wanted it to hit to play with the big guys.
Spirituality and palo santo—there’s some sort of magic there. The shaman coveted it for cleaning and clearing. When you use our product it balances the scalp like nothing else and helps with issues with psoriasis and imbalances.
There’s an opportunity now for companies and entrepreneurs to create a business with a good purpose as the core. Because customers care—and they want us to know that we care about them. Authenticity. You either feel it or you don’t when you use a product.
Why did you decide to go into bodycare?
We had a lot of people asking for something clean and healthy for their skin that has a luxurious feel, as well. At the time we were developing it, I was pregnant and very sensitive to scent. This kind of led to the idea of the creation. The development started four years ago, and we launched three years ago. We wanted to keep it really simple, so we launched three products, a shower gel, a lotion, and a body oil. We use the Rahua oil [from the Amazon Rainforest] as well, in this line and we also introduced a couple of new ingredients from the Amazon. The body oil is rich in beta carotene and gives a nice natural glow. All of the ingredients are healing, giving back, and nourishing the skin.
I love the shower gel because there’s nothing stripping about it. You never feel any dryness ever, you can wash your skin five times and never feel dry. All of the products have lavender, eucalyptus, and palo santo. We’re so proud of what we’ve been able to accomplish within the industry, but also within the Rainforest and what’s happened there.
What’s your biggest accomplishment?
We have hundreds of families in communities [in the Amazon Rainforest] making oil now. There were only a few families in the beginning. They’ve been trained by the elders in the community who knew how to do this—it was fading out because it was tedious and hard to do, and the elders had this knowledge that gets lost when it’s not practiced. When we started going and purchasing the oil and showed interest in it, that seed was planted. Globalization was coming their way; our approach was to give people the knowledge about their land rights, now that they have an economy and a means of making money, there’s even a stronger way for them to be empowered to maintain their land, their culture, and the Rainforest as a whole for our future.
We look at the people there as the guardians of the forest . . . they’ve done this for hundreds of years. They’re protecting the forest so that it can be safe. That’s our style. That’s working. Our work has been very grassroots, working with the leaders . . . that’s how we’ve been able to do the work.
Up front, all of the oils we purchase, we purchase directly from the makers; there are no middle men involved. Through this process we created a new category of ingredient we had to redefine because it didn’t exist—we call it symbiotic. In symbiosis with the wild, with nature.
What makes an ingredient symbiotic?
Three things: It has to be grown wild in the Rainforest, not farmed. It must be made by indigenous hands by ancestral knowledge. Finally, we pay an above Fair Trade price that will help create economy and strengthen and empower the people there. The wisdom and the knowledge that people there have, it’s something we don’t want to be lost, and we can’t afford it to be lost . . . there’s so much wisdom.
The virgin areas that haven’t been touched, deep in the Rainforest are pretty pristine— this is what needs to be protected. The cycle of biodiversity is so important, we need to talk about the trees. Everyone’s planting them, but it takes forty years before they can give oxygen . . . all of these trees, the processes, the birds . . . if you change the circle, the environment, it changes.
How do you define a truly clean product?
That could mean a lot of things, really. The clear answer is the origin, is where the company is coming from, what’s their goal? Why are they doing what they’re doing? For people? To make money? That’s the core. And you get a different result because of that core purpose of a company or a business. There’s an opportunity now for companies and entrepreneurs to create a business with a good purpose as the core. Because customers care—and they want us to know that we care about them. Authenticity. You either feel it or you don’t when you use a product.
Mary Bemis is Founder & Editorial Director of InsidersGuidetoSpas.com. She is a pioneering spa journalist, most recently honored as one of the "Top 30 Influential Voices Transforming Wellness." She is an inaugural recipient of Folio's Top Women in Media Award, and was honored by ISPA with its distinguished ISPA Dedicated Contributor Award. In 1997, she launched American Spa magazine, and in 2007, Mary co-founded Organic Spa magazine. A pioneer in the sustainable spa and beauty worlds, Mary is co-curator of Cosmoprof North America's Discover Green Pavilion. She is a Global Wellness Day Advisor, and a co-founder of the Washington Spa Alliance.
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